SElected writing

The Emptiness of the All-Male Panel

This article originally appeared in Undark Magazine.

Late fall, Sophia Roosth, the Frederick S. Danziger Associate Professor in the History of Science at Harvard, sat in the back row of a packed auditorium at the university’s law school, where a gathering of experts discussed the ethics of growing human embryos in a lab.

For more than three hours, the panelists delved into the scientific, legal, and ethical considerations surrounding the current guidelines for growing human embryos. They also discussed synthetic embryos — embryo-like entities that scientists are starting to grow with stem cells rather than using a sperm and an egg from human bodies.

It was a wide-ranging discussion notable both for its importance and for its surprisingly one-sided perspective: The panelists numbered nine, and all of them were men.

“My assumption was probably I wasn’t speaking on [the panels] because it would be limited to scientists who were actually engaged in that kind of research,” Roosth later told me. “I didn’t realize that they were actually going to be bringing in bioethicists and other social scientists who would be speaking to the same issues that I’m trained to talk about.”

She continued to try to rationalize the exclusion. Perhaps she wasn’t invited to join the panel because she did not have tenure, or because her book, “Synthetic: How Life Got Made,” hadn’t yet been published? Or maybe, she thought, it was because she is not really a legal expert.



This article originally appeared on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.

With alarm over the Disneyland measles outbreak growing across California, almost 5,000 kindergartners enrolled in Bay Area schools are without proof they've been fully vaccinated, a major concern as the highly infectious disease continues to spread.

"They're not immunized, they're not protected," said Amy Pine, director of the Immunization Program for the Alameda County Public Health Department.

But the reasons why so many kindergartners — one of 13 in the Bay Area — don't have up-to-date vaccinations is as diverse as the students themselves: While many lower-income parents struggle to get their kids to the doctor or deliver the paperwork, some higher-income parents are refusing to get their children immunized over concerns the shots lead to autism and other illnesses.



This article originally appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Over 90 percent of kindergarteners at some Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools are walking the halls without all of their state-required vaccinations. At some Oakland schools, the numbers top 80 percent.

These “conditional entrants” must have received at least one dose of each of the required vaccines to enter school, with the promise to get fully up to date in due time.

But neither the state nor school districts has a formal tracking system to ensure that these children become fully vaccinated.


what mental illness looks like

This article original appeared as a blog post on the Center for Health Reporting.

They sat for photographs and told me their stories. One lost a father when she was seven-years-old to a bullet from a bar’s bouncer. Another served five years in prison. Another met his girlfriend through his treatment and therapy.

Each person had been diagnosed with a mental illness, ranging from mild depression to schizophrenia. And they each found community and help within the walls of the Stanislaus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The 12 black and white portraits ended up being one of the most popular galleries ever on the Modesto Bee website. The pictures in the print edition spanned two pages.

And they almost didn’t happen.



This article originally appeared in the Styles section of The New York Times.

The lights flickered. The music stopped. The dancers stood still. We could hear the horizontal rain drumming the tent flaps.
For months before, from our Los Angeles apartment, Jake de Grazia and I had envisioned our three-day homegrown wedding on Jake’s family farm in Chadds Ford, Pa., about 25 miles west of Philadelphia.

In the end, nature disrupted our plans by sending the ultimate wedding crasher — Irene.


President’s letter: Support for Jill Abramson

This letter originally appeared on the Journalism and Women Symposium website following the May 14, 2014 firing of New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson.

Dear Jill:

The members of the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) support you.

As you ascended the ranks of top newspapers, you impressed us with your investigative journalism chops. When you became the first woman to run one of the most influential news organizations in the world, you inspired us to reach for leadership positions in our careers. And when you spoke to us during our annual conference last fall, you re-invigorated us with your self-proclaimed optimism about the journalism field and the influence we can have as women in it. Now we want to support you.

At the JAWS conference, you brought us to our feet declaring yourself to be “the newest member of JAWS” and acknowledging us as your “peeps.” Well, your peeps are here for you if you need us. We are hundreds strong in newsrooms all across the country and we stand with you and will help if we can.